Thursday, April 29, 2010

New York City - Refuge of World Languages

I've been to New York City twice and both times the people I encountered made all sorts of impressive claims about the celebrity of the city's character. One of the claims I heard was that on any given day, someone from every country in the world will invariably walk across Times Square. I didn't know whether to actually believe this or not, but it reminded me of how abundant the history of cultural diversity must be in a city like New York, where people from all over the world are drawn to find opportunity and success. The implications of this are vast; I mean, who knows what obscure cultural curiosities you might find in the boundless corners of that city? Of all the possibilities, you can definitely guarantee that a lot of languages are spoken in New York City. This is interesting because, as it turns out, some of the languages found in New York have more speakers there than in the places where they originate. Because of this, linguists are finding more and more enclaves within the city where speakers of some of the world's rarest and most obscure languages reportedly live. In this way, New York is becoming a very useful, and more accessible, territory for linguists looking to document endangered languages.

Check out the article about this in yesterday's New York Times.

City of Endangered Languages

1 comment:

  1. I wonder if when you wrote this you were thinking also about our basement, or our attic. An ever growing collection of diverse stuff, accumulating in layers of varying interest and value.